Jan 16

In the Company of Angels: Episode 4.1 – The Empath



In the Company of Angels, Episode 4.1 – The Empath


Jill stood up and turned fully around so that she could see Polydora more clearly. But what a being! The graceful-looking woman stood nearly seven feet tall and appeared to be made entirely of silver. There was no fixed color to her other than the reflections she cast, but her shape was clearly feminine. She appeared to be wearing a tunic or robe, richly engraved with strange symbols. But the wings! These Jill could only see partially, as their tops framed Polydora’s head, almost halo-like. They, too, were bright, shining silver.

Polydora stood entirely still; Jill could scarcely believe, at first, that she was a living creature at all.

“P-pleased to meet you Ms…uh…Ms. Polydora,” said Jill.

The statue’s lips moved, and Jill heard a tinkling sound that she recognized quickly as a sweet laughter. “I am delighted to meet you, Miss Jill,” said the statue.

Polydora nodded her head graciously and then stretched out a long arm toward Jill. Jill reached out to shake hands, but was quickly unsettled; Polydora had six delicate, slender fingers, the outer two of which were thumbs, so that their first handshake was one of those moments that most brought home to Jill the fact that she was not in the presence of a human being.

“Polly,” said Mr. Luke, “is the keeper of the Gallery, our secretary, our computer, our filing system, and, especially, our hostess, all rolled into one,” said Mr. Luke. “If there is anything of grace and beauty here in the Gallery, it is entirely due to her.”

Polly turned toward Mr. Luke, placed her palms together, and bowed.

“But, Ms. Polydora…?” asked Jill

“Yes, Miss Jill?”

“If it’s not impolite to ask, what are you? I’ve never met anyone like you before, nor even read of anyone like you. Are you an angel?”

Polly laughed in her chime-like tones. “Dear child! It is true that I resemble what you might call an angel, but I am of the Ferrumari, and I come from a world called Orbaratus.”

“I don’t understand,” said Jill.

“Perhaps I can explain it to Jill, Polly. And while I do so, would you be so kind as to retrieve the landscape of your world so that we can share it with her?” asked Mr. Luke.

Polly bowed, and then, to Jill’s great delight, she spread her silver wings and rose glittering into the air above them. Then she banked steeply and swept into the darkness beyond the railings. The gale from her departure blew through Jill’s hair, and she finally understood the source of the fluttering sounds that she had heard since arriving at the Gallery; they had been Polly’s wings.

Mr. Luke ushered Jill back to the table. As she and Sam sat, Mr. Luke began pacing back and forth before them.

“Polly,” he began, “is the last of her kind. Her home world, Orbaratus, is deserted. All of her people, save her, were destroyed in great wars thousands of years ago, and she lives here and helps us in our work because she has no other family.”

“How sad!” said Jill, “But what were the wars about? And how did she survive them?”

“I’m not sure of all the details, and Polly does not like to dwell on a past that is so painful. But we do know that a race of creatures instigated the wars on her planet; creatures that invaded it from another world.

“I’ve said, Jill, that we, as Framerunners, can visit other realms, both in space and in time. But so, apparently, can others, although their manner of travel is not entirely understood by us. But, many thousands of years ago, an army whose members are sometimes called the Amenta appear to have made their way to Orbaratus. There they found the Ferrumari, a sentient species of servant beings whose creators had long since become extinct. The Amenta have no fixed form; they are what we might call ‘spirits’.”

“’Spooks’ is what I call ‘em,” said Sam.

“Yes, that is Samuel’s preferred term,” said Mr. Luke, “but whatever you might call them, they are dangerous creatures. They persuade and bully others, binding them into a form of slavery. Thus they goaded some of the weaker of the Ferrumari people into instigating wars of power and domination, and these grew in intensity as each of the Ferrumari chose either to uphold peace and harmony, or to ally themselves with those who sought power.

“In the end, much of Orbaratus was laid waste, and all of the Ferrumari destroyed. The Amenta victory was complete, save for Polydora. She was a newborn at the time of the Orbaratan apocalypse and was secreted away by her parents. When she was old enough to leave the haven they had provided for her, all she found left of Orbaratus was a desolate planet devoid of all life.

“But, such are the Ferrumari that even then, Polly did not despair, but rather learned all that she could about her people from those resources available to her: ancient histories and legends, tales of other worlds, poetry, and art left behind not only by the Ferrumari, but also by the race that had brought the Ferrumari into being, about whom we know little. Many of these treasures had survived, you see, in the rubble of the libraries, galleries, and museums. But Polydora’s parents had also provided her with books and paintings of her own so that she could learn as she grew.”

“Almost like my library!” said Jill.

“Precisely!” said Mr. Luke. “And as Polly read the stories of her people, she nurtured her own belief that no creature could ever be truly alone forever in the universe. And her hopes of meeting other intelligent beings were fulfilled at last when some of our own forebears visited Orbaratus. They did this by framerunning a landscape painting of her home; the very one that Polly is bringing to show us. That was her first physical contact with any other living creature.

“But…now you can see for yourself what Polly’s home looks like; here she comes with the painting….”

Polydora fluttered delicately to the floor of the platform. In her arms she held an image painted on a wood-like panel that stood nearly six feet tall. Mr. Luke mounted it upon an easel and Sam focused a floodlight upon it so that it was fully illuminated. Jill saw an alien landscape in silvers, purples and greens. Beautiful metallic structures were built into the sides of cliffs, or perhaps, Jill thought, the cliffs themselves might actually be buildings; it was impossible to say for sure.

There were signs of great violence and decay in the painting, despite its beauty: rubble in the streets; damaged windows; gaping holes in walls; dead vines creeping into cracks in the buildings. But the overall impression remained ethereal and, oddly, lyrical. The landscape and structures, like Polydora herself, were largely made of shining, metallic materials that caught the light and reflected it in graceful curves. Despite the metal, the impression was not of a cold and impersonal place, but of a great but ruined civilization. Even without any living creature depicted, there was something organic and achingly beautiful about the world.

But Jill also felt an emptiness, a loss, and the long flow of time that must have passed since this city had fallen into ruin. She no longer had Sam’s crystal in hand, but she could almost hear the wind sighing through the city streets and feel how hard it must have been for anyone to have survived there – alone. All that beauty, all that history, but none to share it with. Jill felt a lump rise in her throat.

“I believe you like my home,” said Polly to Jill. Jill jumped slightly. She had been so captivated by the painting that she had not noticed Polly step up beside her. Polly gently grasped Jill’s hand and squeezed it.

Jill looked up to answer her and noticed tears in the eyes of the Ferrumari.

“Yes, I like it very much,” she said, “very much indeed….”

Polly squeezed Jill’s hand again, but then turned her head toward Mr. Luke. “This one sees far.”

“Really? How far, Polly?”

“Farther than any I’ve met other than Azarias.”

“Is she a Renderer, then?”

“No, an Empath.”

“An Empath?!!! Holy smoke!!!” Sam blurted out.

“Are you sure, Polly?” asked Mr. Luke.

Polly nodded.

Jill looked up at her, and then at Mr. Luke. “What does that mean, Mr. Luke? I know what ’empathy’ means – it’s kind of like the ability to share someone else’s experiences and emotions – but that’s not what you’re talking about here, is it?”

“No, Jill, it’s not. It’s a term we use to describe a particular talent – a very rare talent – that some very few of our Order have possessed over the years. If Polly is correct – and I can say in all honesty that I have never known her to be otherwise – you may have a skill that we have needed for some time, one that could help us in our work should you wish to join us.

“But, we can discuss all of this later. Polly says you like the look of her world. How would you like to visit it?”

“You mean, right now?!”

“Certainly! Polly, might I persuade you to come with us? I know it may be difficult for you, but there is so much that you can explain better to Jill than can Sam or I.”

Polydora looked longingly at the painting, and then back toward Jill. “I will come.”

“Thank you. I know what returning to Orbaratus may cost you….” said Mr. Luke.

“Two firsts in one day,” mumbled Sam.

“Hush, Sam. Now, let me retrieve two extra crystals, and we’ll be off.” Mr. Luke returned to the desk Jill had seen when she first entered the Gallery, and stepped to the wall on one side of the door. He pushed aside the curtain, and Jill saw a flash of gold as he opened a cabinet door. He returned with two rings; a small one for Jill, and a larger one for Polly.

“Now, these can be kept on your finger at all times, because the crystal is not usually in direct contact with your skin. But, when we framerun, you can turn the jewel around and close your hand shut; then you’ll feel the crystal’s surface against your skin. Try it now.”

Jill put on the ring and felt nothing. But then she did as Mr. Luke said: she turned it around on her finger so that the plain silver band was facing outward, and clenched her hand shut.

She immediately felt the electrical tingling, but then an enormous flood of emotion filled her, almost knocking her to the ground. She turned and stared at the painting of Orbaratus, which was now glowing in a truly unearthly light. The feelings she had had before; of beauty and harmony, but also of loss, of heartbreak, and of pain, were amplified a thousandfold. Motes of light swam before her eyes and she hardly noticed that she was in danger of falling.

Take it off! Take the ring off!” she heard Mr. Luke say to her, as if from a great distance….

              [ To read Episode 4.2, click here…. ]



1 comment

  1. Jason Welebny

    Fantastic! Love it. Beautiful stuff

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